MONTESANO — Layne Bruner, Montesano High School’s senior pitching ace, is headed for Pullman next fall.
Bruner signed a baseball letter of intent with Washington State University on Wednesday, WSU coach Donnie Marbut confirmed.
He will receive the standard baseball scholarship of receiving full tuition and partial compensation on room and board, with the possibility of increasing to a full-ride scholarship by the time he becomes a sophomore.
Approached by several Division I schools, Bruner said he narrowed his choices to Washington State, Washington and Arizona State. He said he considered the Cougars a better fit both on and off the field.
“I really enjoyed the pitching coach, Coach Swenson (assistant coach Gregg Swenson, whose family has Raymond ties),” Bruner explained Wednesday, “and they have the program I want to major in.”
Bruner, who aspires to be a Fish & Wildlife agent, hopes to major in Wildlife Sciences at WSU.
He was also recruited by Arkansas State, where Montesano High graduate Tighe Dickinson is the pitching coach. Layne and his father, Montesano High baseball coach Mike Bruner, experienced some pangs of regret in turning down the Arkansas State offer, since Dickinson had been a valuable resource in providing the Bulldog program with the latest in pitching techniques.
“Layne does give him quite a bit of credit for helping with his pitching development,” Mike Bruner said.
If all goes according to plan, Layne would be one of the rare Harborites to play baseball at the Pac-12 Conference level. The most recent notable example is Aberdeen High School graduate Greg Isaacson, who was a starting second baseman for the University of Washington from 2002-04.
The left-handed Bruner is also the first Grays Harbor recruit of Marbut, an Aberdeen High alum who will be entering his ninth season as the WSU head coach.
“We couldn’t be more excited and ecstatic,” Marbut said. “The first one was important and I’m sure glad it was Layne.”
Marbut believes Bruner’s potential is unlimited.
“In my opinion, he’s the best left-handed pitching prospect in the state of Washington,” the Cougar coach said. “The sky’s the limit for him.”
Among Bruner’s accomplishments as a junior was a one-hit, 17-strikeout performance in a district contest against Ridgefield.
College recruiters, however, primarily focused on his performance for the Seattle-based Taylor Baseball select team last summer. He had an earned run average of 1.15 and averaged a strikeout per inning for Taylor.
“Right about that time, we started getting letters (from major colleges),” Mike Bruner said.
Layne also played on tournament and developmental teams and attended several college camps.
Although boasting above-average velocity for a high school pitcher (he has registered as high as 89 mph on speed guns), Bruner’s primary attribute is the movement on his pitches.
“He’s got a good fastball he can throw around the plate, he’s got a breaking ball he can throw for a strike and he’s got a change-up he can throw for a strike,” Marbut said. “You look at him and think three years from now how good he can be.”
Increasing the slender (6-foot-2, 175-pound) Bruner’s strength will be one of Marbut’s top priorities.
“He doesn’t have to work on much, except for getting bigger and stronger,” the WSU coach said. “His mechanics are really clean. He’s fundamentally sound. If he gets an inch taller and (gains) 20 pounds, there’s no telling how good he can be.”
While Bruner operated primarily as a relief pitcher for Taylor last summer, Marbut foresees him as an eventual starter for the Cougars.
“He’s the type of guy who will be a weekend rotation guy I think by the time he’s a sophomore — or maybe earlier,” the WSU coach said.